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Cold Soaks and Color Extraction: My Observations

When the blog “The Wine-o-scope” posted this post, “The value of cold soaks for red winemaking” last week I was intrigued.  Having done extensive phenolic analysis for several years with a few different red varieties, I always like to see what other people are finding.   When I say extensive, I mean extensive.  At my previous job, we would run phenolic analysis by Adams-Harbertson assay every day for EVERY high end red during fermentation.  This was mainly Cabernet Sauvignon but also included Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  We also looked at Pinot Noir just for the fun of it but we determined that the rules that govern phenolic extraction in Bordeaux varieties just don’t apply to Pinot Noir and left that sleeping dog lie.  The timing of anthocyanin and tannin extraction still applies in Pinot Noir but I’ve found through my experience that the best analysis of Pinot Noir is still tasting it frequently.

Here is the reality of things based on real world, non research based experience.  In Bordeaux varieties a cold soak absolutely increases color extraction, particularly with extensive cap management, vs tanks with little to no cold soak.  It does not increase tannin extraction because tannins don’t really start coming into the solution of the wine until a reasonable amount of alcohol has built up.

Take a look at this Cabernet Fermentation below… (My apologies upfront for not being able to figure out how to import an Excel graph into my post).

You can see that at the point fermentation has started there is already close to 400 ppm of Anthocyanins extracted in the fermentation.  This is after a 6 day cold soak with significant cap management.  You’ll also notice that it is not until day 4 of fermentation (around 15 Brix) that we are able to detect any tannin extraction.  This could be ANY Bordeaux variety fermentation.  They all follow the same pattern.  Just for fun, here is a Merlot graph from the same vintage, same vineyard, and same general area of the vineyard with fermentation starting within a day of the Cab above.


Aside from noticeably less anthocyanin and tannin content at dryness (because it is Merlot after all) the pattern of extraction is pretty much the same.  Cab Franc is the same pattern as well.

Once one looks at enough of these numbers daily one doesn’t really even need the graph anymore.  You just know what’s going on.

As far as the dangers of cold soak go, yes you do see an increase in other organisms and yes, you do occasionally get the random “wild” fermentation if you push the cold soak over 5 days.  Also, if the fruit is not clean coming in the risk increases so sorting is essential to a clean and healthy cold soak.  Dry Ice is your friend at this point and should be used liberally.

To me the true value of the cold soak is the period you are guaranteed to be extracting color without extracting tannin.  Can you extract the same amount of color without a cold soak?  Of course, but be prepared to have much higher tannin levels at dryness as well since you will be working the cap harder during the time of fermentation when both are extractable.

That’s just my opinion and again, this was not in a research but in real winery experience with no controls.  Take it for what it is worth.

Happy Holidays!

Calistoga Lighted TractorDear Readers, Thank you so much for being loyal readers and for feeling like this blog is awesome enough to read even over the holidays.  I will be taking two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s to spend time with my family and friends as well as contemplate the upcoming year ahead.  I will be adding new content again weekly starting in January.  Until then feel free to peruse the archives if you scroll all the way down to the bottom and by searching on whichever category you feel is most interesting.  If you would like to be notified directly of all new posts please sign up for my mailing list on the “Contact Me” tab above. Happy Holidays to you all! Nova

Happy Thanksgiving! Have Some Pie!

This past week has been very exciting for my blog which won the Millesima Blog awards for the Vinification Practices Category. See the final announcement here.

It’s also one of my favorite holidays this week. The one single holiday of the year where you don’t have the added pressure to find the perfect gift or spend a ton of money on those gifts, but where you give thanks for what you already have. It’s a bit disconcerting at how successful the stores have been at taking over this holiday. I’m sure it is a frustrating concept for them to deal with. It’s a day where people reflect on their blessings and don’t think about what their next new purchase will be. It is simply enjoying life as it is and I really appreciate that. One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is getting together with family and baking for a group of people. One of my specialties is pumpkin pie so I thought I would share the recipe with my readers.

Nova’s Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Puree:

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Take one pumpkin and carve it into slices. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet and bake about 45 minutes until the flesh easily separates with a fork. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes.

Once the pumpkin is cool scoop out the flesh into a food processor and blend until smooth and fine.

If not being used immediately, the pumpkin can be frozen in freezer bags in 1 ½ cup divisions for multiple recipies such a soup and pumpkin bread as well as pie.

Pumpkin Pie:

1 ¼ cup Pumpkin Puree

¾ cup Sugar

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Ginger

1 tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp Allspice

1 tsp All purpose flour

2 eggs beaten

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

½ tsp Vanilla

(If using canned pumpkin add 2 tbs water)

Mix together Pumpkin, salt, spices, and flour and mix well. Then add the 2 eggs beaten. Finally add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the entire center of the pie raises up and does not jiggle when shaken. Let it cool and refrigerate. Serve cold with fresh whipped cream.


Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!